book reviews

Repost: Steve Dublanica’s Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter

And here’s a repost of another Epinions review from October 2009. It’s also as/is.

I have developed a special empathy for those who wait tables. About eleven years ago, I was struggling to get myself launched into some kind of career and decided to take a job waiting tables at The Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had never waited tables before, but I had watched my three older sisters do it successfully. I figured I could handle it. After 18 stressful months, I eventually got the hang of waiting tables and the job did help me move on to bigger and better things. However, the experience definitely left an indelible impression on me and made me realize that I’m not cut out for service industry work. Nevertheless, after my stint waiting tables, I’m still left remembering the experience and feeling like I can commiserate with others as to what the job is like. That’s pretty much why I decided to read Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, written by Steve Dublanica.

I found out about Waiter Rant by cruising around the Internet. Someone had mentioned Dublanica’s wildly popular blog by the same name and I went to read it. In the course of reading Dublanica’s blog, I learned that he had started the blog anonymously back in 2004 and went to great pains to protect his identity as well as that of the place where he was working. He referred to the place as The Bistro and related all kinds of hilarious and poignant anecdotes about his bosses, co-workers, and customers. Impressed with Dublanica’s witty writing style, I ended up reading his blog for several hours and then ordered his book, which had pretty much forced him to give up his anonymity.

I was hoping the book, Waiter Rant, would be as good as the blog was. Dublanica didn’t disappoint me, as he explained how it was that he had gotten into waiting tables as a guy in his thirties. Dublanica explains that people who wait tables generally fall into three different categories: those who don’t know what they want to do, those who are learning to do something, and those who are professionals. I found myself really relating to Dublanica’s observations about why he was waiting tables. The money can be fairly good and it’s mostly paid in cash at the end of every shift. The hours are generally pretty flexible. And the work, while definitely hard at times, is often interesting… or, at least it’s often busy, which makes the time go faster.

The trouble is, waiting tables is the kind of job where one can get stuck for years. I have a hunch that was what had happened to Dublanica. He had a real desire to be a writer, but like so many other people, he was afraid of failure. So he settled for waiting tables for awhile and eventually became a manager at “The Bistro”, where he ended up mining plenty of “food for thought” for his blog, which later turned into his very entertaining book.

As I read Waiter Rant, I found myself remembering some of my own experiences as a restaurant server. For instance, Dublanica writes about how waiters who work in fine restaurants find themselves thinking they should be eating what their patrons eat. They often develop and broaden their culinary palates to a point that goes beyond their budgets. I know I developed more of an appreciation for fine foods and liquors after I worked at The Trellis. Unfortunately, my love for good food now shows a lot more than it did when I waited tables. I also found myself nodding in agreement when Dublanica writes about waiters who work when they’re sick, waiters who have substance abuse problems, and waiters and other restaurant workers who are working illegally.  He also outlines the different types of customers one runs into while waiting tables.  It’s amazing how some people behave when they’re out to eat.  Some people are wonderful, friendly, and generous… and some people, well, are generous only with attitude and grief.  Frankly, I think the way a person treats a waiter is often a good reflection of the type of person they are.

Dublanica has a way of communicating with his readers as if he’s in a room, talking to them one on one. His writing has a definite conversational style that is engaging and unabashed. I think it will appeal to fellow waiters and ex-waiters because they will recognize Dublanica’s experiences in the trenches. I think it will appeal to those who haven’t waited tables because besides being entertaining, it’s very informative. At the end of the book, Dublanica adds several irreverent appendices on subjects ranging from how to order wine without looking like a twit, to things that every waiter would love to tell their customers, to signs that the restaurant you’re working in is dysfunctional. I think I liked the dysfunctional list the best, since I related to so much of it.

Anyway, I highly recommend Waiter Rant to anyone who wants to know what it’s like to be in the trenches, serving fine food at a busy restaurant. I would also recommend it to those who are now going down that road or have been there before.

For those who want a little taste of Waiter Rant, here’s the address for Steve Dublanica’s blog: www.waiterrant.net.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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silliness

What’s something you can say in a restaurant AND during sex?

This morning, I am determined to write something off the grid. I ran across a funny memory today. It was a meme shared last year by The Bitchy Waiter, who writes a funny blog about waiting tables in the United States and has a very active Facebook page. It’s been a long time since I last waited tables, but I remember the experience well. I don’t always agree with The Bitchy Waiter or his other followers, but I do remember waiting tables all too well. As glad as I am that I had the experience, which taught me a lot about fine food, wines, and liquors, and left me with a lot of great friends, I hope I never have to wait tables again. It’s a good skill to have, though. When there isn’t a pandemic going on, restaurant work is usually plentiful and has kept many a person employed and fed.

But anyway, last year, The Bitchy Waiter shared today’s featured photo. I ran across it this morning and it made me laugh. I’m tired of complaining about the usual shit, and since it’s Monday, I thought I’d write something funny for a change. Or, at least I think it’s funny… maybe you don’t.

So… what’s something you can say in a restaurant AND during sex? My first answer was “No thanks. I’m full.”

Some of my friends joined in with their suggestions and I could post them here. I might decide to rip off a few if I can’t come up with (heh heh, I wrote “come”) any other beauts… Hmmm

  • Something smells fishy
  • I’m not eating anything that looks like that
  • Lots of protein in this
  • I’m hungry
  • That tip is not big enough
  • Feed me!
  • Please pass the sausage
  • I’m NOT paying for this!
  • The service is terrible
  • I want seconds!
  • This is too hot!
  • Blow on it!
  • Can I have a refill?
  • Smells yeasty…
  • Where did this come from?
  • That’s an impressive cut of meat!
  • I’ve had enough
  • What’s with all the jelly?
  • Thank you for satisfying my hunger
  • Service with a smile!
  • Can I have this on the side?
  • I’m a breast man
  • The legs are to die for!
  • Brown sugar tastes so good.
  • Give me some sugar.
  • Tender and juicy!
  • It’s so meaty
  • Creamy and dreamy
  • Succulent… falling off the bone
  • It’s burning!

I guess thirty is enough. I could probably come up with a lot more, but that seems like a waste of time. Bill went in to work today, so I think I’ll do some musical exploration. Maybe I’ll even make a video, although I’m not sure what I’d do. I’m not feeling particularly inspired today. Usually, when I go as far as making a video, I have something in mind that I want to try. Not so this morning… at least not yet.

Hope everyone has a good Monday with as little interpersonal drama as possible. I noticed when I was looking at this post that someone who responded to it last year has blocked me… probably because one of her friends recently attacked me on Facebook and I decided not to be “Facebook friends” with her anymore. I guess I don’t mind being blocked by her, since we didn’t really know each other, and she seems pretty immature, anyway. I mean, I’m probably old enough to be her mother, and I’m not from Utah or even an ex Mormon. I’m pretty sure we found each other on RfM, and I’ve found that I don’t mesh with a lot of people I “meet” there. So it’s just as well.

Maybe the solution to my current social media dilemma is to do a massive “friend” purge. I hate to do that, since I know some people’s feelings get hurt. But I really am finding that I have less time and patience for stupidity, yet deleting Facebook is a bit impractical, since so many people use it and ditching it would make some things more complicated. For instance, the introductions and discussions about the dog we’re hoping to soon bring into our home were done entirely through Facebook. He’s still in Kosovo right now. If I ditch Facebook, then it’s harder to get in touch with the people arranging the adoption.

Also, I run a local wine group that I’m not quite ready to give up yet… especially since we officially got word that we’re going to be staying in Germany for a bit longer. I do need to do something, though. I’m sure some people think I need to develop a thicker skin, but my skin is plenty thick, and getting thicker thanks to all the isolation and lack of exercise and exploration. So we’ll see what happens.

Time to play the guitar and work on my quest to be able to change chords without a one second break.

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narcissists

Whatever…

Sometime in the early 1990s, it became popular to answer people with a single word– “Whatever”. I remember being in college and people were suddenly saying, “whatever” in a sarcastic tone of voice when someone said or did something stupid or rude. This morning, I’m reminded of that as I just finished watching Dr. Les Carter’s latest video about the one word all narcissists hate. Can you guess what it is?

Dr. Carter is right. Narcissists hate to be dismissed by the word “whatever.” Frankly, it’s not a word I use very often, except to people who really deserve it. I used it the other day, when someone was giving me grief over sharing a Rolling Stone article about Donald Trump. She basically said that Rolling Stone isn’t a valid source of information about the world. I responded that it’s a legitimate magazine with real journalists. When the teasing continued, I wrote “Whatever.” Fortunately, this friend isn’t a narcissist. However, there have been times when I really upset someone because I said “whatever” to them.

I was listening to Dr. Carter talk about how narcissists behave– they want you to dance to their tune and jump when they say “jump”– and if you don’t, there’s an implied threat that there will be hell to pay. But if you respond to them like a grey rock, in a bland, detached, unaffected way, it drives them crazy. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, since narcissistic people are infuriating.

Back in October 2013, I wrote on my old blog about the word “whatever” and its significance. Because it was a pretty good post, and includes an anecdote from my past about the use of “whatever”, I’m going to share it again now.

One of my Facebook friends asked what the word “whatever” means in her friends’ hometowns.  My friend is presently in Oregon, visiting her husband who is there on business.  Her husband said “whatever” to someone out there and they were very offended.  My friend and her husband are from the Philadelphia area and in Philly, saying “whatever” is not that rude.  I mean, yeah it’s kind of snarky and dismissive, but it’s not the kind of thing that would bring that much offense to most normal people. 

The responses to my friend’s query were interesting.  Most of her friends said it was a little disrespectful, but not “fuck off and die” territory.  A couple of folks commented that it would depend on the tone and the context.  One mother said she would wash her kid’s mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it.  Apparently, out on the left coast, “whatever” is highly offensive and actually is akin to saying “fuck off and die”.  Someone can correct me if my friend’s impression is wrong.

Anyway, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that occurred back in 1998 or 99… can’t remember exactly when.  I was working as a waitress at a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It was dinner time and someone in my section had ordered a cheeseburger, an item on the dinner cafe menu, while everyone else was having food off the regular dinner menu.  The crappy computer at the restaurant had a course numbering system that usually worked fine.  However, for some reason, burgers were not automatically designated second or main courses.  You had to enter it manually.

In my haste to take the order, I forgot to designate the burger as a main course; so I had to go back and talk to the chef.  I went to the kitchen and explained that I had forgotten to course sequence the cheeseburger and that I wanted to note that it was intended to be a main course.  The chef was very rude about it and made some nasty or sarcastic comment to me.  I no longer remember what he said, but it was offensive.  And I said in response, “whatever”.  Actually, given my emotional state in those days, he’s lucky all I said was “whatever”.  At that time, I was trying to find the right antidepressant and was even edgier than usual.

Well… the chef got pissed, and complained to the manager that I had been “rude” and disrespectful to him.  So she cornered me and bitched me out, which got me really upset.  I was pretty non-functional for about an hour.  I’m kind of surprised I never got fired from that job, actually…  though I was generally a hard and dependable worker.  Once I got my meds straightened out, I was a lot more even tempered.  For some reason, a couple of the managers actually seemed to like me and kept me around.  Also, they were chronically understaffed.  Anyone with a high enough tolerance for abuse and decent work ethic could work there as long as they wanted to.

Later, I told my shrinks about what happened. The psychiatrist, who was a bit of an ass and used to patronize me by calling me “kid” and constantly harassed me about my weight, asked me if I had apologized to the chef. And my response was that the chef should have apologized to me. I had made a simple error and immediately went back to fix it. I was polite when I approached him. He got shitty with me first. It wasn’t even like the error was a big deal. All the chef had to do was make a note of it on the order chit, but instead, he decided to start shit with me when neither of us had time for the drama.

My psychologist, whom I suspect was not really all that impressed with the drug pushing psychiatrist, applauded me for being so assertive and said the chef was acting like a prima donna!  A couple of years later, his daughter worked at the same restaurant.  I’m sure he heard even more horror stories from her.

Restaurant work is hectic and frustrating and, if you work in a nice place, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with egomaniacal chefs who act like assholes…  and that chef who was rude to me was a major asshole who thankfully rarely worked on the line because he had been promoted to “executive chef”.  I vividly remember the few times he did work on the line and he would throw tantrums that, if you were sitting in a dining area close enough to the kitchen, you could easily hear.  He was very unprofessional and would often get weeded because he was out of practice and easily overwhelmed.  And when he messed up, he took it out on the staff, who were forced to address him as “sir”.  No, I’m not still bitter…  😉

I actually hated that job, but I’m very grateful for the experience.  I learned so much there and it did propel me to a better life.  I made several good friends working at that restaurant, too.  Some of them are still friends today.  Indeed, 17 months of misery in fine dining literally changed my life for the better and, I think, made me a much higher quality person.  At the very least, I learned to have respect for people who work in the service industry.  I will never purposely stiff someone who works as a server, unless their behavior is so egregiously rude and unprofessional that they make it obvious they don’t care if I tip them. 

That restaurant experience also gave me a lot of stories… and taught me a bit about fine food and wine. It helped me find a very easy and decently paying job when I moved to South Carolina and needed something that wouldn’t interfere too much with grad school.  I ended up working at a country club where I didn’t have to rely on tips, had flexible hours, and they would let me take home leftovers.  I also learned to try new things and enjoy really good food instead of processed boxed crap or casual dining chains.  I may not be skinny, but at least I get fat on the good stuff.

In 2020, I still have a lot of friends from that restaurant job. Some of them are chefs. Not all chefs are assholes, but restaurant work is a stressful job which can lead to some bad habits like smoking and drinking way too much. The chef who was rude to me had worked his way up to executive status, so he was no longer used to expediting. I always hated it when he had to work, because he would often throw tantrums that involved yelling, screaming, and occasionally throwing things. He’d had to work that night because one of the regular chefs got sick and needed to take the night off. The executive chef was pissed off that he had to work as a lowly expeditor, and he took his angst out on me.

Incidentally, the chef who called in sick is still a friend of mine. He was one of my favorite chefs to work with back in those days, because although he did occasionally throw the odd tantrum, he didn’t smoke or drink and very rarely fucked things up. He was also very funny. At the time, he had a mohawk, and he enjoyed my raunchy sense of humor. I still like him today, although it looks like he’s now a manager, rather than a chef.

I recently read that the restaurant where this happened, which had opened in 1980 and had once employed my sister back in its earliest days, closed for good just a couple of weeks ago. The restaurant that existed during my employment there actually ceased to exist in 2009. The original owners sold it to another local chef. The “new” owner was never able to get the restaurant to the level it was back in its heyday. So now he’s going to start over, and turn that restaurant into an Italian eatery. Williamsburg, Virginia actually has a number of Italian restaurants… but this new place will have a lower price point and be more family friendly. It will also have a retail side. We’ll see how it turns out and, if indeed, it survives the COVID-19 nightmare.

As I posted on my travel blog– which is now more of a German social isolation lifestyle blog– I’m picking up new skills every day.

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